Rev. Sebastian A. Samay, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, died October 1, 2013. He was 87. Born June 10, 1926 in Pécöl, Hungary, he was the son of the late Maria Vurdák Samay and Professor Ödön Samay. One of eight children, Father Samay was predeceased by his brother Wolf A. Samay, Esq. and his sister Ildiko Nestler Molnár, and is survived by: his brothers—Attila G. Samay and his wife Ildiko of Sylmar, California; Edmund C. Samay of Chester, New Jersey; Z. Lance Samay, Esq. and his wife Karen A. Harrington of Bernardsville, New Jersey; Marot A. Samay of Chester, New Jersey; his sister Sheila Erickson of Asbury Park, New Jersey; 17 of his 19 nephews and nieces; 24 grandnephews and grandnieces; 4 great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces, and countless Brothers of the Benedictine Order.
A true “Renaissance man,” Father Samay was an outstanding scholar of both the arts and sciences, a gifted linguist who was fluent in at least six languages, an accomplished musician—a symphony orchestra cellist and composer, a skilled carpet weaver and tapestrist, an extraordinary horticulturalist who created the perennial masterpiece of Saint Vincent Archabbey affectionately known as “Sebastian’s Garden,” and a brilliant philosopher, author and teacher. Yet, despite his exceptional intellect and gifts of spirit, mind and body, or perhaps because of them, he was a genuinely humble man.
His education began in Hungary, where he attended the prestigious Humanistic Gymnasium of Köszeg (1937-1945). However, his formal schooling was interrupted during the desperate post-war years that he and his family endured as refugees in war-torn Europe, and then during his civilian employment and subsequent honorable military service in the United States Army following his family’s immigration to the United States. After his military service, in 1954 he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Saint Vincent College and, from 1955 to 1959, he followed his vocation and studied for the priesthood at Saint Vincent Seminary.
He made simple profession of monastic vows on July 2, 1955, and solemn profession of vows on July 11, 1958. On May 23, 1959, he was ordained a priest at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg, Pennsylvania by the late Bishop Hugh Lamb, and, soon after, he celebrated his first Mass in the presence of his family and friends at St. Stephen’s Church, in Passaic, New Jersey, with his two youngest brothers as Altar Servers.
Father Sebastian then continued with post-graduate studies and received a licencié en philosophie (1962) and a docteur en philosophie (1963) from the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. Thereafter, since 1964, he served as a faculty member of Saint Vincent College. He also served as a prefect at Saint Vincent Seminary (1964-1967); Seminary Spiritual Director (1966-1967); Chairman of the College Department of Philosophy (1966-1968); Master of junior monks at Saint Vincent Archabbey (1967-1969); College Campus Minister (1969-1970); and as a visiting professor at University College, Dublin, Ireland (1970-1971). He was named an associate professor at Saint Vincent College (1971-1981) and a professor (1981-2000). In 2000 he was named to the adjunct faculty of Saint Vincent Seminary. He served as acting College Academic Dean (1973-1974); Director of Institutional Research (1974-1980); member of the College Board of Directors (1979-1990, 2003-2010); member of the Saint Vincent College Corporation (1979-1991, 1993-1999); Master of Novices at Saint Vincent Archabbey (1982-1990, 1997-2009); and College Academic Dean (1989-1992). He also served as an assistant librarian in 1998 and was the Coordinator of Formation Programs for the Archabbey.
Father Sebastian has served on a number of committees and councils at Saint Vincent, and held memberships in several philosophical and honor societies. His books include Reason Revisited: The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers published by Gill & MacMillan, Ltd., Dublin and London (1971) and the University of Notre Dame Press (1972), and Act and Agent: Philosophical Foundations for Moral Education and Character Development (co-authored), published in 1986 by the University Press of America. He also authored a number of articles and addresses.
In 2004, he was honored as an Alumnus of Distinction by the Saint Vincent Alumni Association.
The body of Father Samay will be received at the Elizabeth J. Roderick Center of Saint Vincent Archabbey at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, October 7, with viewing to follow in the parlor of the Roderick Center from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, and from 2:00-5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 8. The body will be transferred to the Basilica for a vigil service at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9 in the Archabbey Basilica. Interment will follow in the Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund, Saint Vincent Archabbey, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.